This article originally appeared in Pyramid #15
The best part of gaming the alternate worlds campaign of GURPS Time Travel is inventing alternate timelines for the campaign. History is so stuffed with turning points that gamers can play the game for decades and never use the same world twice. What's more, if a Game Master wants to use an "if" of history again, he can simply generate a different alternate history. This practice has worked in print; witness the numerous victorious-Nazis stories that have come out in the last 50 years, no two alike. Each person's idea of the results of an altered event is unique, like a fingerprint. This makes the game all the more fascinating. The following timelines were discovered by Infinity Unlimited explorers and researchers in the year 2016.
This world is definitely one to keep an eye on. On this Quantum 5 timeline, Imperial Germany had better tactics and communications in 1914-16, winning World War I and stamping its rule on all of Europe and Africa. The Czar managed to keep Russia out of the war and put down the Bolsheviks in 1917. The second major change was the greater success of the Technocrat movement of the 1920s. The Technocrats advocated government by scientists according to scientific principles, and managed to overthrow the U.S. government in 1926, setting up a new nation, the American Technate.
The Technocrats set about developing their technology, and the Kaiser of Germany soon followed suit. By 1935, jet aircraft were being tested in the Technate; the first controlled nuclear reaction was achieved in Baltimore in 1940; the first computer was built in 1943 and all American homes boasted one by 1960. The laser was invented in Los Angeles in 1948. The joint Technate-German lunar mission of 1966 established colonies on the moon. The other nations simply copied the technology of the Technate and Germany, with little innovation of their own; one exception was Japan's achievement of a magnetic-levitation train system in the late 1960s.
Surprisingly, this timeline is relatively peaceful. After the Russian Imperial family fell from power in 1927, a conservative Menshevik government took over, establishing a republic that is still struggling to feed its people. China remains a collection of warring states, those parts of it not run by Japan. Most nations are content to follow the lead of the Technate and Germany, and since these two powers are allies, they've seen no need to develop nuclear weapons. (There are nuclear-powered cars and airplanes, however!)
The problem is, either power could be tempted to try conquest if it discovers the existence of alternate timelines. Infinity scientists estimate that the Technate or Germany or both could build their own conveyor within a year, if they came by one of ours. This timeline is in its year 1991, and is at Tech Level 10.
UN peacemakers were overjoyed by the discovery of this Quantum 5 timeline. There, Benjamin Franklin's Albany Plan of Union was accepted by the British and colonial governments in 1754. By the end of 1755, the 13 colonies were united under a Grand Council, and by 1757 both Britain and the colonies were benefiting from the arrangement. The Revolution was averted, the Indians kept more of their lands, and the great empires stayed intact. These empires kept the peace; when Prussia tried conquering Europe in 1910, it was swiftly defeated. Technology advanced faster; for example, Thomas Edison invented radio and the airship in the 1880s. The world is currently at TL9.
Albany is in its year 1965 and is still at peace. Teams of UN observers are on this world, hoping to learn how to end war on Homeline.
This Quantum 6 timeline experienced an unusual disaster in 1195: an asteroid the approximate size of Texas slammed into the moon and destroyed it. The shattered moon became a ring encircling the Earth, while the asteroid, deflected by the impact, hit Mars.
The moonstrike was seen by millions and the effects on man's religious and political life were staggering. The Church was hard-pressed to explain the disaster, and many splinter sects emerged; the Reformation came three centuries early. Since the tides were now gone, seamen and scientists had to team up to work out ways to compensate. More people studied science, and the Scientific Renaissance came early. The European peoples discovered the Americas in the late 14th century and colonized them, though the British got Florida and the Spanish got Canada. This world is in its year 1985 and is at TL8.
The discovery of this Quantum 3 timeline caused much comment among Homeline's religious communities. There, the Waldenses, Peter Waldo's followers who believed the simple life to be best, fled Europe for North America when they were excommunicated by Pope Lucius III in 1184. They landed on Long Island, built their first major city on Manhattan Island, befriended the Amerinds, and invited other, less fortunate, Europeans to join them. Thousands of commoners did so, and criminals, unwanted nobles' sons and others made their way to the continent most called Waldensland. By 1450, an Amerind-European union called the United Peoples of Waldensland had formed. The European powers attempted to conquer the continent in several wars between 1470 and 1550, but failed. The U.P.W. is the world's greatest power now, in its year 1968.
Because the Waldenses valued peace and the simple life over technology, their science is still at TL 4; however, the U.P.W. is one of the most civilized cultures Infinity has yet seen. The Catholic Church of Homeline is having to think hard over the question of how heretics could have succeeded so well on Waldensia. The Protestant denominations are pleased at the heretics' success, while the Jewish community is pleased to notice that the Jews and Christians of Waldensland co-exist in peace. It's quite likely that both religions on Homeline will benefit from the lessons of Waldensia.
This Quantum 6 timeline resulted from a change of career for Marco Polo; he became a priest and missionary instead of a merchant. He persuaded the Khan of China to send for 50 missionaries; they came, and succeeded in converting the entire empire to Christianity.
The effects on history of a Christian, capitalistic Chinese empire were incredible. Medieval European society was shaken and enlightened by the influx of Chinese goods and ideas, while European contact changed centuries-old traditions and lifestyles in China. The Vatican changed, becoming more tolerant; as a result, the abuses that led to the Reformation were corrected and Martin Luther remained an obscure monk, albeit one who helped Chinese immigrants settle in Germany. The Black Plague was stopped in a few months, so tens of millions of Europeans lived longer. Technology advanced faster, with the Scientific Revolution starting around 1400. Chinese ships discovered the Americas in 1438 and the Amerinds were regarded as human beings; thus, no race wars resulted. By 1700, Earth's political map was unrecognizable, and its civilization radically different from Homeline's in the same year.
This world is in its year 1979, and it is at TL 9.
Timelines where creatures other than man developed sapience and civilization are becoming better-known; the United States of Lizardia is one such, as are the other dinosaur-populated lines. Snoopy, in Quantum 4, is populated by sapient, humanoid dogs, while Jumbo, on Quantum 5, is ruled by civilized elephants whose society is based on the herd mentality.
Still, the discovery of this Quantum 3 timeline set people back on their heels. This world is ruled by sapient, man-sized opossums who have built a forest-centered, family-oriented and relatively peaceful civilization. It is in its year 1950 and its science is at TL 6. The discovery of Pogo and other animal-dominated timelines has made people realize that man is not the only intelligent being in the multiverse, and this fact is having a profound effect on Homeline's religions, culture and science.
This Quantum 5 timeline resulted from a tragic event in 1828 France. The six-year-old Louis Pasteur was bitten by a rabid dog and died three months later. From this private tragedy sprang a world of 1970 much different from Homeline in the same year.
Without Pasteur, bacteriology as a science never went anywhere; the use of antiseptics in the operating room never caught on; rabies never got a cure; pasteurization was never invented; and no way to prevent anthrax and cholera in animals was discovered. Hundreds of thousands of people died between 1880 and 1910 whose counterparts on Homeline lived, and plagues swept the world repeatedly in the 20th century. A devastating series of influenza, cholera and plague epidemics ended World War I in 1917. A series of similar plagues ended a very different World War II in 1951. Since then man has struggled with the problem of controlling disease, and when Null-Pasteur's plight was made known to the people of Homeline, they embarked on a mission to save the people of that Parallel. UN doctors are secretly introducing modern medical techniques to Null-Pasteur, and some success is already being seen. Significantly, there was very little protest made to this mission of mercy.
Null-Pasteur is still at Tech Level 5.
The existence of this Quantum 3 timeline offers proof that history and humanity can take some very strange paths. Here, Alexander the Great survived malaria in 323 B.C. and went on to conquer Rome, Carthage and China. His descendents colonized the Americas, unified the Amerinds, wrote the ultimate encyclopedia and built steam-powered vehicles. By 1400, a world Macedonian state existed.
It was about 1500 that things started getting weird. A cadre of officers took over the Macedonian moon colonies in that year and seceded from Earth. The development of near-sentient computers in the 1540s resulted in the formation of an illegal underground organization called the Technos Legion, dedicated to a rule by scientists. The similarity of the Legion to the rulers of Centrum is frightening. An eccentric genius, Arelo Destos, reputed to be a member of the Alexandrian royal family, achieved an engine capable of pushing a spaceship to three-fourths the speed of light in 1589, and the Great Colonization began. Hundreds of thousands of Earthlings colonized hundreds of worlds, enlarging the Macedonian Empire to a mind-boggling size. This in turn led to the Earth-Jazdan War of 1620-1642, an interstellar war with the fascist Jazdan Empire, a race of insectoid aliens. The war ended with a cease-fire. A new complication to a very complicated culture was added in 1710 with the founding of the Institute for Psychic Studies – a school that taught its students how to harnass psychic and psionic powers. By 1740, thousands of people were using psi powers.
By 1805, the Macedonian civilization was at Tech Level 13 and very aggressive under its arrogant ruler, Alexander XXXX. That was the year the Lunar Republic, aided by the Jazdans, nuked Earth with over 400 nuclear warheads. Civilization was destroyed and the Lunans and Jazdans divided the planet between them, each planning to betray the other when expedient. The Jazdans were wiped out with a genetically engineered virus in 1866, leaving the Lunans in control of the Earth. Today – the current year is 1996 – Earth is a wasteland inhabited by mutants, psi-powered descendents of survivors, animals evolving sapience and the still-extant Technos Legion. Current Tech Level for the Earthlings is 5, the Lunans, 13.
Needless to say, this timeline is off-limits to everybody but the highest echelons of Infinity and the I-Cops. If any of the disparate peoples of Macedonia- Weird get hold of a conveyor, they would have their own within a year. What's more, some of the mutants and psis might develop world-jumping powers. This Quantum 4 timeline is a major headache for Homeline.
This Quantum 3 timeline nearly caused the breakdown of Mexican-American relations when it was discovered. On this alternate, currently in its year 1945, Aaron Burr succeeded in becoming emperor of Mexico in 1806, styling himself Aaron I. President Jefferson was unable to get support for a war to stop Burr. Burr's ambitions grew; he annexed the entire west coast in 1812, the Rockies in 1816 and most of Central America by 1824. Mexican help to the British led to a stalemate in the War of 1812; President Madison was forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty in 1816 that allowed the U.S. to remain independent, but as an inferior trading partner to the British Empire.
American history followed a much different path because of Burr's empire. The presence of Aaron III's expansionist Mexico kept the south from seceding, but slave revolts in the 1870s led to the freeing of the slaves in 1880, and most of the slaves were shipped off to Africa. The Amerinds, trusted allies of the Burr family, remained powerful in the west. Under Presidents Robert Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. developed its own overseas empire between 1885 and 1910, annexing the Philippines in 1899 and Hawaii in 1902. Europe remained monarchial, the world wars were averted and President Charles Evans Hughes founded the Allied Nations in 1920. Tech Level for most of this Earth is 6; there are no nuclear weapons, but no space travel or television either.
The Mexican government of Homeline claimed that the existence of Emperor Burr was proof that the U.S. has always wanted to take Mexico for its own. Both the U.S. government and Infinity are busy combatting this belief.
This Quantum 5 timeline resulted from the Viking Bjarni Herjolfsson landing in North America in 986 A.D., something he didn't do on Homeline. He liked what he saw and brought settlers there a year later. The colonies survived and over the next 50 years the European peoples immigrated to the New World: Saxons, Normans, Vikings, Romans, Jutes, Germans – all of them. The new Americans pushed the Amerinds westward, spilling a lot of blood in the process. By 1200, European colonies covered everything east of the Appalachians.
The Mongols invaded North America in 1297 from the west and swept to the Hengalb (Mississippi) River, crushing the Amerinds and providing the European-Americans with their ultimate challenge. The wars lasted over two centuries and the Mongols were finally pushed to the Rocky Mountains. The Europeans had domesticated the bison and invented gunpowder and reliable guns during the war. The current year is 1985, and the continent is still divided between the Europeans and the Mongols.
St. Paul's Russia
The discovery of this Quantum 4 timeline did much to ease the discomfort felt by many Christians over the success of the heretics of Waldensia. On this new timeline St. Paul travelled, not westward to the Roman Empire or eastward to the Orient, but northward to Russia. He brought Christianity to the Vikings, Slavs, Bulgars, Avars, Goths, Khazars and Huns who inhabited the territory. He journeyed all over Russia and Scandinavia, and by 200 A.D. most of those lands were firmly Christian.
The results of this change were staggering. The Roman Empire was not Christianized until the late 4th century and lasted until the 8th. Russian missionaries converted first the Chinese and then the Amerinds of western North America, a Russian named Ivan Molodovo having discovered the continent in 1066. Europe remained primitive longer; it was not Christianized until the early 1700s. The Africans and Incas joined forces while the Aztecs conquered much of North America. The Saxons of England discovered Newfoundland in 1758 and established a colony that lasted until the Plague Year of 1838. The current year is 1910; the Tech Level of Russia is 6, Europe 4 and the Aztecs 5.
Many Christians on Homeline believed that St. Paul's Russia was proof that God shapes the course of history on the alternate Earths, and many at Infinity think they may be right. The Vatican and most Protestant denominations in Europe and America are studying the controversy, hoping to learn from it.
This is one of the weirdest timelines yet discovered. Located in Quantum 7, this line has different physical laws; in short, light waves bend and change direction, almost as though they were alive and sentient. Taylor Mallory, the explorer who discovered Lightbend, understandably thought he had gone insane until his conveyor instruments showed that the sun's rays really were bending.
Infinity researchers are trying to find out how the bizarre behavior of light rays is connected to the fact that the humans of this line are still in the Bronze Age, at Tech Level 2. The current year is 1322; this world has been classified as an "anomaly" world and set aside for scientific study.
This Quantum 4 timeline presents a great danger to Homeline; its greatest power is a Communist Soviet Union that covers all of Eurasia and most of North Africa. This is the result of Leon Trotsky defeating Joseph Stalin after Lenin's death in 1924 and becoming the master of Russia. Trotsky built up the nation's economy, subsidized scientific research, encouraged works of pro-government (but otherwise free) literature and made treaties with the United States and other nations. He refused to deal with Hitler; instead he launched his own blitzkrieg upon Germany in May 1938. Germany was crushed and Hitler was executed. By 1945, Trotsky had conquered all of Europe while America, feeling betrayed, could only stand by in helpless rage.
The U.S. under President Robert Taft founded the Alliance Against Communism in 1948, and most of the world's free nations joined. Trotsky's Russia achieved jet aircraft by 1947, a computer by 1950 and landed on the moon in 1958. By the 1980s America was technologically outstripped by the Russians. Trotsky died of cancer in 1978, and his sons rule the empire now. The current year is 1998.
The problem is that Infinity agents report that scientists in the Soviet Union are working on a crosstime conveyor. The spectre of an aggressive, TL 10 Communist superstate loose in the multiverse is a frightening one, to say the least. Infinity has its hands full trying to stop the Russian project without being discovered itself.
Infinity researchers and explorers have found some weird parallels before, but none as weird as Kirby. Even the United States of Lizardia and Bizarro can't compare with this Quantum 5 timeline. This world experienced "Edison's War" of 1900-1908, a conflict started when a Russian-German-Austrian Axis attacked the rest of Europe and the United States. Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and other inventors built hovercraft, machine guns, tanks, airships and other technological wonders, and the Allies defeated the Axis with them. Once the war was over and President Theodore Roosevelt's League of Free Nations was in place, the world's people lauded and honored its scientists and inventors.
As the people embraced technology, interest in science fiction exploded. By 1915, over 50 sf magazines were being published in the U.S. alone, including one edited by Edison and six edited by Hugo Gernsback. Every writer in the U.S. tried his/her hand at the genre; for example, Gertrude Stein's Stars Like a River won a Pulitzer in 1938. By 1940, people were thinking that all the technology seen in the sf magazines should be built, and the scientists agreed. 1943 saw the first moon landing; computers were developed by 1945 and were made small enough for the average man to afford by 1955; atomic-powered spaceplanes were first used in 1950; a Channel Tunnel was finished in 1960; and genetic engineering was common by 1965. U.S. Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Kennedy, Jr., Robert Kennedy and John Glenn put millions of dollars at the scientists' disposal, and they used it all.
By 1968, the American and European moon colonies were self-supporting; in 1970, the first Martian colonies were founded. The laser rifle was invented in 1973; the robot exoskeleton was invented in 1976 and used to give the handicapped mobility; an FTL drive was achieved in 1981. Fusion reactors and solar satellites were providing Earth with most of its power by 1985. A sentient computer, dubbed Superbrain by its inventors, went on-line in December 1987. Cloning of humans was common by 1995. Fortunately, no one seems to have tried building a crosstime conveyor, but sooner or later someone inspired by an sf magazine will try. This world is at Tech Level 14; the current year is 2000. Infinity named this world after its greatest sf comics creator, Jack Kirby. The Infinity Council is unsure what to do with Kirby. The people there are largely peaceful, channelling their aggression through games and scientific achievement, but if they were to develop a crosstime conveyor, they could unintentionally harm less advanced worlds. The discovery of the untouched timelines might corrupt some of the Kirbyans and get them to take over. Worse, their technology could fall into the wrong hands–imagine Reich 5 or Centrum getting their hands on a tachyon rifle and you get the idea. All Infinity can do is keep hands off, send in agents to learn the science, and hope Centrum doesn't discover Kirby. It's a major worry.
Detractors of former U.S. President Richard Nixon were more than a little surprised when this Quantum 6 timeline was discovered. There, President Nixon decided in 1969 to send an expedition to Mars on the heels of the moon landing. Congress went along, and Eugene A. Cernan set foot on Mars on October 28, 1972. The U.S. public went wild for space exploration after this achievement. The first American moon colony, Goddard City, was founded in 1973, and the Soviet Union followed suit in 1974. Martian colonies were established in the late 1970s; the American space station America I went up in 1978; and robot probes landed on Jupiter and Saturn in 1981. Scientific advances came faster as science became the preferred career for many young people in America. A cancer cure was achieved in 1982, a magnetic-levitation train system in the U.S. in 1985, and undersea colonies by 1990. The political history of the U.S. was changed; the Watergate scandal never happened; Vice-President Gerald Ford was elected President in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and Jack Kemp in 1988. The Democratic Party finally put Jerry Brown in the White House in 1992, largely on his promise of more technology for the common man, but the party is losing much of its old power and smaller parties are waiting to take over. This world is at Tech Level 9, and the current year is 1999. Infinity would like to learn Spacenixon's space science without giving anyone there knowledge of crosstime travel. When you're dealing with alternate history, anything is possible, and when you've got hundreds, maybe thousands, of alternate timelines to work with, you're really cooking. As long as gamers are interested in history and its might-have-beens, there will be plenty of material for the Alternate Worlds Campaign of GURPS Time Travel.
Article publication date: October 1, 1995
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